Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Random House, 2012
Synopsis- An utterly captivating reinvention of the Rapunzel fairytale weaved together with the scandalous life of one of the tale’s first tellers, Charlotte-Rose de la Force.
Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. She is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…
Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death, sixty-four years later. Called La Strega Bella, Selena is at the centre of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition, retaining her youth and beauty by the blood of young red-haired girls.
After Margherita’s father steals a handful of parsley, wintercress and rapunzel from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off unless he and his wife give away their little red-haired girl. And so, when she turns seven, Margherita is locked away in a tower, her hair woven together with the locks of all the girls before her, growing to womanhood under the shadow of La Strega Bella, and dreaming of being rescued…
Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic and the redemptive power of love.
Review- Setting off on a holiday was the perfect opportunity for me to select one of the lengthy novels from my unread bookshelves. Bitter Greens was one of those books I bought after reading so many reviews that spoke highly of it, but unfortunately I hadn’t had the chance to pick it up and read it.
A rather dark fairytale re-telling of Rapunzel, gives Bitter Greens a lot of appeal. Thankfully I was hooked into this book immediately! What a relief to have a book that instantly fascinates you when you are faced with a 24 hour plane journey! I stuck my nose into this book and when I put it down I couldn’t wait to delve back into it again. At the same time, it was one of those books I just wanted to savour. I didn’t want to read it too quickly and be done with it in a couple of days. Instead I happily enjoyed this story for the first week and a half of my trip.
I don’t know what I can say about this book that hasn’t been said before, but I loved it. Each of the female protagonists were well fleshed out as characters, to the extent that I couldn’t even hate the witch Selena because I could completely understand how she evolved into the adult she was because of the trauma she experienced as a child.
Stories within stories, a blend of fairytale with reality and three strong women who know exactly what they want in life made for entertaining reading. I highly recommend this book.
Bitter Greens can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers
This book was read as part of the AWW2014 challenge: